Under Control: Gulf States cleans land; no news on contract
The plume of smoke hovering over most of mid-Marengo County on Thursday didn’t require the response of emergency personnel.
Gulf States Paper Co., which owns the land, performed a control burn on more than 70 acres Thursday.
“Basically, it was site prep on a tract of land that had been harvested,” said Dan Meissner, spokesman for Gulf States. “We were burning off what was left after we harvested that land.”
Once it is completely cleared and prepared, Gulf States will replant the 70-plus acres near Highway 43.
Along with site-prep, companies like Gulf States use control burns for a number of reasons. According to Meissner, one of the most important reasons for such a burn is to protect the area from wildfires.
“We use the fires to burn off what’s underneath,” he said. “It removes potential items that could create wildfires, and it’s best to eliminate as much of the fuels from the forest as possible.”
For instance, some of the biggest problems in the West, where wildfires have been the norm in recent years, arise because the land underneath the forest is not cleared through control burns.
Meissner also said Gulf States uses control burns to open up the forests for boroughs for wildlife habitat.
As with most of their control burns, Meissner said the one Thursday was done with a Gulf States crew and that firebrakes were used to make sure the safety of surrounding residents.
“There’s really not a time-table for doing them,” he said. “We do them periodically, on an as-needed basis.”
The burn Thursday was done because of the timing of the harvest and site-prep work. Meissner also said it was done during the day because certain factors must be considered, including temperature and wind direction.
No news is news
The long-running dispute between Gulf States and members of its employee union doesn’t have an end in sight.
More than two weeks ago, officials from both Gulf States and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union met with federal mediators to continue negotiations on an employee contract that has not been approved for nearly 10 months now.
While employees have remained on the job, working under their previous contract, little has been accomplished in terms of inking a new work deal that would eliminate the risk of a work stoppage.
There has been no threat of a strike by union employees, but Gulf States, after members rejected a contract for a third time earlier this year, has repeatedly said employees have received a final offer.
According to Meissner, the two sides are schedule to meet, again, with a mediator.
“We’re trying to work through our schedules, but it looks like we’ll get together in a couple of weeks,” he said.